This was the first article that I got to write for Australian Hysteria Magazine, later shortened to simply Hysteria, who I wrote for on and off for about six or so years.
I didn’t always have the best relationship with the site, as I was uncomfortable with the methods of editing and the lackadaisical approach taken in other departments. Nevertheless, I got to speak to some really interesting and really engaging people for Hysteria – and it comes to engaging people, you won’t find many more so than Dez Fafara.
I haven’t been wild about the last few DevilDriver records, but the first three or four or are just really fun, dumb, kickarse ‘Merican metal records so I get behind them in a big way. Regardless of what I think about DD, anyway, I have all the time in the world for Dez. He’s one of the most laid-back, honest and open interviewees you could ask for. Horns up for the big man.
– DJY, March 2020
Dez Fafara is a man of great paradoxes. He’s a dedicated family man with a wife and kids, yet maintains the look of a dude you really wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. His vocals are gruff and bellowing growls from the deepest pits of the stomach, yet his speaking voice retains a conversational, laid-back-Californian tone. Whatever you make of him, there’s no contradictions when it comes to Fafara’s place in the metal conglomerate. His band, DevilDriver, have toured the world to thousands of sold-out shows and festivals, all the while consistently releasing slabs of new material. With a new album, Beast, set for release in February, as well as a return to Australia for the 2011 Soundwave fesitval, Australian Hysteria got the chance to get on the phone with the man himself from his L.A. home to discuss new material, that kickarse album title and what we can expect when DevilDriver are back in town.
Australian Hysteria: Hey Dez, how’s everything going?
Dez Fafara: I’m good! We just got off the road from Europe, and I got a couple of weeks at home. I was real sick for the last five or six shows, but the important thing is that I got through them!
Nice one. How has 2010 treated you?
Unreal. Been touring and touring and touring, came off the road for a short time, put Beast in the can, got that ready, got back to Europe, and now we’re all getting ready to get back down under with you guys for Soundwave. It just keeps rollin’!
Sounds gruelling. Do you ever get tired of the write/record/tour process?
No, not really. I think ‘gruelling’ would be sitting at home with a day job. [laughs] It’s not in my blood to do that, man! What DevilDriver does – we put out a record every two years – I think it’s important to do that. I say this in every interview, but a lot of bands will make you wait three or four years in-between records – we’re not that kind of band. With Beast, we had all the music in the can, so why the hell not?
Even from the get-go of Beast, the album title is probably the most succinct and straightforward title of a DevilDriver record yet. Was that an intentional move?
When I was listening back to the music, when I realised what we’d become as a team and as a touring machine…Beast just fit perfect. It was one of those things where the word encompasses the music and what we’ve become as friends as musicians. Also, in California, it’s a word for “cool.” My younger kids, who’ve got long hair and wear Slayer shoes, they say “beast” for everything. “That sandwich was beast!” “That girl looks beast!”
So are DevilDriver trying to stay down with the kids, Dez?
[Laughs] Just listening to my kid go “that’s beast!” I’m like “…what?” I took the word and I turned the DevilDriver cross into the “t” at the end. I send a photo of it to my drummer and he’s like “oh, man, that’s it.”
Obviously DevilDriver would want to keep progressing and improving as a band, but were there any specifics in what you aimed to achieve on Beast?
The concept was to make a record that was just on-fire and “go.” The musicians themselves were already in the headspace to do that – specifically, my drummer, who wrote a lot of the guitar. When it came to the demo-ing, I was just spitting fire straight from pen to paper, right away.
Were you inspired by the other band members’ motivation to write when it came to what influenced that?
Yeah, definitely. But in terms of my own inspiration, I was at a point where I was going through a really rough time. I had to move my family because of wildfires, I had to leave the recording process and drive back into San Diego and record without any of the other members, which I’ve never had to do before. I was in a dark, pissed-off period and I had a lot to get off my chest. Luckily, I had my wife and family and everybody behind me…but even my wife said to me “Fuck it! Get it off your chest! I’ve been reading what you’ve been writing – you need to put this shit to music.” That’s why the record is what it is.
Have you roadtested the songs from Beast live yet?
We haven’t played them yet, because the record’s not coming out until February! I mean, in the room, obviously, we’ve jammed them, but the first time you hear these songs shouldn’t be from a shitty cellphone, y’know? The first place we’ll be playing these songs live is probably Australia, because the record will be out and it’ll be appropriate. We just worked way too hard on the production of this record for you to just hear two or three tracks off of somebody’s cellphone, man.
You must be looking forward to coming back to Australia?
I love it. This time around, I’m bringing my beautiful wife and my two sons, who are 13 and 16, both into metal, both into a lot of the bands that we’re playing with. To go there and experience that with family…I always have a wonderful time, but this time it’s going to be even better for me.
Who are you most looking forward to checking out at 2011’s Soundwave?
I’m gonna go see Maiden with my family, man. I’m gonna go watch Slayer. There’s so many bands playing, and we’re gonna watch as many as we can in-between interviews and everything else. Me and my family, we’re all just fans of music, so we’re just gonna see as much as we can.
Fuck yeah. Does it ever blow your mind to see your band on the same bill as Iron Maiden or other acts you’re into?
It’s unreal. I still look at my life from the outside in, man – the guy that I am on stage, I leave that guy on stage when I come home or when I’m hanging out with friends. So I do have moments like you’re talking about where I look from the outside in and think “Holy shit, we’re getting ready to play with Maiden!” But you can’t let it get to you, because you have a job to do.